The United States Justice Department broadened an investigation into allegations that employees at The Wall Street Journal's China news bureau bribed Chinese officials with gifts in return for information, the newspaper reported Sunday.
The Justice Department reportedly approached News Corp.'s outside counsel in early 2012 and said it had received information from a person it described as a whistleblower, who claimed one or more Journal employees had provided gifts to Chinese government officials in exchange for information.
However, News Corp. has told the Justice Department that company officials suspected the informant was an agent of the Chinese government, seeking to disrupt the paper's work and possibly retaliate against the Journal for its reporting on China's leadership, the report said.
Citing government and corporate officials familiar with the case, The Wall Street Journal maintained that an inquiry by Down Jones, the Journal's parent company, found no evidence to support the claim.
“After a thorough review of our operations in China conducted by outside lawyers and auditors, we have not found any evidence of impropriety at Dow Jones,” said Paula Keve, a spokeswoman for the paper. “Nor has anyone taken issue with our findings.”
The investigation coincides with a broader government search into News Corp. over a phone-hacking scandal at the company’s News of The World tabloid in Britain, which was shut down in July 2011.
The investigation resulted in the arrest of dozens of journalists, including Rebekah Brooks, former editor of News of the World and former chief executive of News Corporation’s British newspaper division, who has been charged with conspiring to pervert the course of justice.
However, a report recently released by media watchdog RSF said that China is among one of the countries flagrantly spying via the Internet.
According to the report, titled “Enemies of the Internet”, the "Chinese Communist Party runs one of the world's biggest digital empires.”
Individuals and companies have to rent their broadband access from the Chinese state or a government-controlled company, the report said, adding that, "China jails more people involved in news and information than any other country.”